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Viva Mindelo

cd cover It must be tough filling the shoes of your mentor when she's known as "The Barefoot Diva." Such is the plight of the protégé, as well as the reviewer in search of a lead. Fantcha's Viva Mindelo is growing on me. In part, it's someone other than the renowned Cesaria Evora, who, it has to be fair to say, put Cape Verde's music on the world stage. But Fantcha stakes out her own territory with how she sings the morna, the slow, rhythmic, lyrical ballads known for expressing nostalgia, love, longing and sadness. Along with the more lighthearted and up-tempo style coladeira, Fantcha's styling is a pure delight. Let's back up. The Cape Verde Islands are a volcanic Atlantic archipelago of 10 islands and eight islets 360 miles off the West African coast. Barren until Portuguese traders brought slaves to make the islands habitable in 1462. Darwin spent time there on his way to the Galapagos (1832). Lindbergh stopped there during a North Atlantic crossing (1933). Independence eventually came (1975), democracy later (1991), but perpetual economic hard times led to substantial migrations, many making their way to New England shipping ports. These are small, out of the way islands to be sure, but these folks seem to have great musical ears. Fantcha's "Afro-Portuguese world music style" captures the roving influences of Africa, Cuba, Brazil and more. The full-bodied, full-band arrangements offer cosmopolitan settings to her songs, both for the romantic "torch-style" songs along with the more danceable numbers. You must hear Evora, of course, but it would be a shame to miss out on Fantcha. Her's is a rising star with recent performances at Wolf Trap, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Chicago World Music Festival. Catch a performance if you can, but in the meantime give a listen to Viva Mindelo. - Richard Dorsett

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